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Police called to the scene of Burns Lake council meeting

Commanding officer shares the crime stats so far this year
Staff Sgt. Major Kent MacNeill presenting Staff Sgt. Shaunna Lewis of the Burns Lake RCMP detachment her long service award. Lewis gave a report on 2023 crime stats to mayor and council, this week. (Submitted photo/Lakes District News)

Burns Lake is not having a harsh year for crime, so far in 2023, but there are some interesting statistics within the overall collection.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Shaunna Lewis went before mayor and council on June 13 to provide a policing update.

“Last year we had just under 3,000 calls for service. This year we are at 1,165 so fairly close to being on par, which is within 100-200 calls for service since 2017, minus the COVID year where everything went wonky, but otherwise very consistent in those numbers,” Lewis said.

She said that property crime (mischief, vandalism, theft, etc.), year to date, has a slight increase over 2022, but not by a whole lot. “Last year at this time we were at 29, this year we are at 37,” she said.

Impaired driving files were 39-37 this year over last, so essentially the same.

There has been a spike in traffic tickets, this year, she said, but that was only because the detachment created a focus around that, so the numbers skewed upwards.

Another big jump came from the things spotted by members as they walked the streets.

“It is a mandate for my members that every shift, they have to do a foot patrol,” and the results are showing, Lewis said. In the Burns Lake detachment the routes they walk are collectively called red zone patrols which target the business district for extra eyes and years in pedestrian fashion to augment the driving patrols. This started in 2017.

“So far this year we have increased to 155 from 104 last year. And it is a zero tolerance mandate,” said the commanding officer.

A troubling statistic is the one tracking mental health calls for service, where police go to check on someone’s well-being. Those have gone up substantially, year over year. In 2023 members responded to 185 so far, compared to 83 in the same time span in 2022.

Like the fire department previously reported this past month, police are likewise being swamped with a single chronic caller, connected to mental health complications. That same mentally unwell individual that has repeated dialled the fire department has done the same with RCMP. Lewis attributed 86 calls in 2022 and 25 so far this year, to the single resident.

“We can’t just not go to those calls; it is our responsibility,” she said, and those were one of the categories of response that requires two members attending together, so “it ties up two members, even if it’s a false call.”

Lewis said that police have been purposefully paying attention to special events (parades, hockey games, weddings, holiday gatherings, school visits, etc.) more so than in past years. This ensures a noticeable police presence for preventative enforcement, as much as responding to incidents that spontaneously come to their attention, but another benefit of that visibility is the relationships made, “which is really good for the members to get involved in their community.”

Councillor Kristy Bjarnason spoke up at the council table to say she had noticed police interactions, this past year, and found them to be positive, “and I really appreciate what you’re doing.”